A simple statement of Jesus is always a puzzle to us because we will not be simple. How can we maintain the simplicity of Jesus so that we may understand Him? By receiving His Spirit, recognizing and relying on Him, and obeying Him as He brings us the truth of His Word, life will become amazingly simple. Jesus asks us to consider that “if God so clothes the grass of the field…” how “much more” will He clothe you, if you keep your relationship right with Him? Every time we lose ground in our fellowship with God, it is because we have disrespectfully thought that we knew better than Jesus Christ. We have allowed “the cares of this world” to enter in (Matthew 13:22), while forgetting the “much more” of our heavenly Father.
“Look at the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26). Their function is to obey the instincts God placed within them, and God watches over them. Jesus said that if you have the right relationship with Him and will obey His Spirit within you, then God will care for your “feathers” too.
“Consider the lilies of the field…” (Matthew 6:28). They grow where they are planted. Many of us refuse to grow where God plants us. Therefore, we don’t take root anywhere. Jesus said if we would obey the life of God within us, He would look after all other things. Did Jesus Christ lie to us? Are we experiencing the “much more” He promised? If we are not, it is because we are not obeying the life God has given us and have cluttered our minds with confusing thoughts and worries. How much time have we wasted asking God senseless questions while we should be absolutely free to concentrate on our service to Him? Consecration is the act of continually separating myself from everything except that which God has appointed me to do. It is not a one-time experience but an ongoing process. Am I continually separating myself and looking to God every day of my life?
“ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ ” Matthew 16:15
At some point in life we’ve all felt the frustration and fear of being up against situations that we can’t deal with and, worse yet, there seems to be no one to help. If you were to ask me to tell you about the times I have felt the twinges of hopelessness, my early recollections would be from my first year in high school.
From kindergarten through eighth grade I attended a small Christian school. My dad was a well-known pastor in the area, which meant that I was the big man on campus. Everyone knew who I was, and I had it made—until the day I graduated from that school and enrolled in the nearby public high school. Nobody knew me or my dad at the new school, and nobody cared. So, needless to say, I wasn’t a big shot anymore. What’s worse, I became the victim of Ronnie, who decided to prove his emerging manhood on me. Whenever I passed him in the hall, he would shove and taunt me. I was traumatized. Every day at school I was filled with anxiety and fear because of Ronnie. I needed somebody to help me. I pleaded with friends who knew Ronnie to ask him to stop, but they never did. I was all alone in my problem, and I needed a champion.
In Jesus’ day, the Jewish people were up against the oppressive regime of Rome. Every day they lived with the shame of being a despised minority under the tyrannical thumb of Caesar, who demanded hefty taxes and unflinching allegiance. The once-proud Israel was now a puppet servant state of a brutal and pagan empire. They desperately needed someone to champion their cause. Could it be that Jesus was the long-awaited deliverer? Hence, this on-the-spot quiz! Peter came up with the right answer when he declared Jesus as “the Christ”—the “Messiah” who would deliver them from the oppression they had endured for so long. Against the backdrop of Caesar-worship and rampant paganism in Caesarea Philippi, the disciples pinned their hopes on Jesus.
What Peter didn’t know was that Jesus would be their champion on a far more significant level than a political one: the oppression of Rome. Jesus came to overthrow the source of our problems, not the symptoms. Rome was merely the tool of Satan to defeat God’s people and tarnish God’s glory. Defeating Rome would have been a great accomplishment, but the enemy of our souls would have found another way to wage war against the people of God. So Jesus went head-to-head against Satan, engaged in battle on an old rugged cross, and after a three-day struggle with death rose victoriously from the grave to assure the final victory over the enemy of our souls.
Jesus is the ultimate champion! And when we cast our lot with Him, He assures us that the victory is already won on our behalf. The next time you find yourself in a full nelson up against the wall of despair, claim Jesus as your champion. As Paul declares, you may be “struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9). Since He won the battle at Calvary, you are now entitled to share in the spoils of His victory. Thanks to Jesus, the word defeat is not in our vocabulary!
- How would you answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?”
- Read Romans 8:31-39 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. What types of things threaten to defeat you? What promises are listed in these verses?
- What are the “spoils of victory”? Take some time to list some of the benefits that the Champion has made available to you.
Streams in the Desert
I have begun to give;…begin to possess (Deuteronomy 2:31).
A great deal is said in the Bible about waiting for God. The lesson cannot be too strongly enforced. We easily grow impatient of God’s delays. Much of our trouble in life comes out of our restless, sometimes reckless, haste. We cannot wait for the fruit to ripen, but insist on plucking it while it is green. We cannot wait for the answers to our prayers, although the things we ask for may require long years in their preparation for us. We are exhorted to walk with God; but ofttimes God walks very slowly. But there is another phase of the lesson. God often waits for us.
We fail many times to receive the blessing He has ready for us, because we do not go forward with Him. While we miss much good through not waiting for God, we also miss much through over-waiting. There are times when our strength is to sit still, but there are also times when we are to go forward with a firm step.
There are many Divine promises which are conditioned upon the beginning of some action on our part. When we begin to obey, God will begin to bless us. Great things were promised to Abraham, but not one of them could have been obtained by waiting in Chaldea. He must leave home, friends, and country, and go out into unknown paths and press on in unfaltering obedience in order to receive the promises. The ten lepers were told to show themselves to the priest, and “as they went they were cleansed.” If they had waited to see the cleansing come in their flesh before they would start, they would never have seen it. God was waiting to cleanse them; and the moment their faith began to work, the blessing came.
When the Israelites were shut in by a pursuing army at the Red Sea, they were commanded to “Go forward.” Their duty was no longer one of waiting, but of rising up from bended knees and going forward in the way of heroic faith. They were commanded to show their faith at another time by beginning their march over the Jordan while the river ran to its widest banks. The key to unlock the gate into the Land of Promise they held in their own hands, and the gate would not turn on its hinges until they had approached it and unlocked it. That key was faith.
We are set to fight certain battles. We say we can never be victorious; that we never can conquer these enemies; but, as we enter the conflict, One comes and fights by our side, and through Him we are more than conquerors. If we had waited, trembling and fearing, for our Helper to come before we would join the battle, we should have waited in vain. This would have been the over-waiting of unbelief. God is waiting to pour richest blessings upon you. Press forward with bold confidence and take what is yours. “I have begun to give, begin to possess.”
–J. R. Miller
From: Back To The Bible
Genesis 40:14 (NIV) 14But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.
41:1 (NIV) 1When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile,
Joseph had dreams from God that predicted his brothers and parents would bow down to him. The dreams and his father’s favoritism caused his brothers to envy him. The brothers sold their 17-year-old brother to slave traders. They concocted a deceptive story for their father saying that a wild animal had killed him. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Joseph was elevated to the chief servant over the household of his first master. When the master’s wife wanted him sexually, he would not betray God or his master by yielding to her. Her false accusation landed him in prison.
In time, he rose to second in charge of the prison. The Pharaoh’s butler and baker were confined there, and he interpreted their dreams. The butler’s dream meant that he would be reinstated, and so, Joseph uttered the above Scripture. But when the butler was restored, he forgot his vow to tell Pharaoh about this young man, now 28 years of age. He had served faithfully for years as a slave and for more years in prison. We never read one word of complaint. Just when there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, the butler forgot while Joseph remained in the royal prison.
The darkest hour is just before the dawn. I don’t think he ever doubted the God given dreams, but it sure must have seemed hopeless at times. After these 14 years of servitude, anyone would be discouraged. Yet, this was God’s college for kings. In one day, he went from being a servant of the jailer to the second highest position in all of Egypt, the greatest nation in the world.
Encouragement: Don’t give up on the vision and promises of God. He will bring them to pass in His time and His way. God’s ways are vastly different from man’s ways.
Matthew 3:10-12 (NIV) 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming as a time of separating the good from the bad. His illustrations included cutting down the trees that don’t bear fruit, and separating the grain from the chaff. Jesus will use the same illustration in John 15 when he describes burning the fruitless branches. What is a fruitless tree? What is chaff? Here are two possible interpretations.
There are those lives that will never allow Jesus entrance. Their every action and deed is ultimately selfish. Even those that appear to be gracious have some self-seeking motivation behind them. There is nothing of eternal value to that life. Hell is the gathering of the selfish.
We could also say that there are branches and chaff in the life of every believer. These are areas in which the life giving sap of the Holy Spirit does not flow. It comes with being a fallen creature, but it only remains because we allow it to. A gardener prunes the branches that have died and those that will bear no fruit. They rob the rest of the tree of sunlight and nutrients but produce nothing in return. Jesus has come to clean up our life. He brings the life giving sap of the Spirit. He also brings a fire that burns away that which robs our life of fruitfulness. The end product of us giving Him the freedom to work in our lives is fruit that remains. That means treasure in heaven, substance of eternal value.
Consider: Are you a fruit-bearing tree? If so, which branches need pruning? Are there some fruitless ones that are keeping you from being more productive for the Kingdom of God?